Job burnout can not only hurt your career, it can create serious medical issues if left unchecked. Yet countless employees don’t realize or ignore the signs of job burnout until it is too late.
“People get this sort of ironman or woman mentality where they work really hard and refuse to say no and let stress build up,” says Todd Cipperman, founding principal of Cipperman Compliance Services, which provides outsourced compliance services to the financial services industry. “Rather than dealing with it they take dramatic actions like quitting their job.”
1. Know the signs
According to career experts, in order to prevent job burnout from manifesting you have to be able to recognize the symptoms. While people deal with stress differently there are some commonalties that should signal it’s time to make a change.
For instance, Kathy Harris, managing director of recruiting firm Harris Allied, says some of the common symptoms of job burnout include the inability to concentrate or pay attention at work, losing interest in your job or not feeling engaged, and deteriorating job performance. According to Amanda Augustine, the job search expert for job website TheLadders, other signs include feeling tired emotionally, mentally or physically all the time, and compulsively checking your phone or email or thinking about work. Additional indicators also include feeling bitter or angry about your job, having zero work-life balance, and seeing your health and personal life start to suffer. “We see a lot of job burnout with middle management,” says Harris. “Middle managers are pulled in 13 different directions. It’s sort of akin to working in quicksand.”
2. Get the burnout in check
Identifying the symptoms of job burnout is half the battle. Correcting the situation wins the war. According to Cipperman, employees often suffer in silence because they assume their bosses know how hard they are working and the long hours they are clocking, but in many cases the bosses don’t know what’s going on. Because of that, Cipperman says employees have to speak up and let their managers know how they are feeling. He pointed to one senior executive who instead of suffering in silence came to him and let him know that he was feeling overwhelmed, couldn’t sleep, was irritable and as a result it was hurting his quality of life. “You have to put it in context,” says Cipperman. “At the end of the day you are not saving lives, your job is not in jeopardy and you don’t work alone.”
In addition to speaking up, Augustine says employees have to look for ways to reclaim their work-life balance. After all, you don’t want your job burnout to ruin your marriage or relationships outside of the office. Ways to do that, says Augustine, include making time for physical activity, knowing when to take a break, and when to block out me time. “Identify which activities out of work are most important to you and determine when you’ll need to be ‘off the grid’, whether it’s hitting up the gym during lunch or getting home in time to eat dinner with your family,” she says. “Determine the time frame you need to be ‘off the grid’ to accommodate this priority and communicate these expectations to your team.”
Sometimes all it takes to get out of the burnout mode is to take a vacation. This can be particularly true of those employees who never take off out of fear things will implode when they are gone. Cipperman says taking frequent small vacations instead of one long one can go a long way in keeping your stress in check and preventing the burnout from happening. Its ok, he says, for people to also take a mental health day here or there as long as it doesn’t impact productivity. Even getting out of the office for lunch or taking a walk around the block can go a long way in reducing some of that work related stress.
While quitting your job can be an extreme way to manage job burnout, in some cases it becomes a necessity, especially if your health is failing as a result of the stress. “A lot of people quit when it gets so bad it’s impacting their personal life,” says Harris. “You have to know what works for you and what doesn’t and what you need to do in order to fix the problems.”